Here’s an idea, the Tribe should move Kipnis to center field
Now what? Aside from Michael Brantley, does anyone have any idea who will be playing in the outfield for the Cleveland Indians next week, let alone next year? Michael Bourn? Nick Swisher? Tyler Holt? At this point, the best we can do is monitor Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier and hope they can accelerate the development process. It would take a miracle for either of them to be ready before 2017, and even if they were, this front office is hardly aggressive about advancing prospects.
Here’s a thought: Jason Kipnis. If there is one place the Indians could conceivably be said to have a surplus of prospects, it’s in the middle infield. How much harm could it do for the rest of this lost season to call Jose Ramirez (current .790 OPS at Columbus) up and stick him at second base for the remainder of the season and put Kipnis in center field. We all know that Kipnis played center field in college, is average at best defensively at second base, and that this team needs as many upgrades as it can get in that area. An infield with Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Giovanny Urshela would (assuming the issues they have experienced this year were simply rookie jitters) seemingly be an elite defensive unit. We don’t know yet whether any of them will hit enough to hold their jobs, but if we had sixty more games of evidence on which to make that decision, wouldn’t that make more sense than going into spring training just hoping?
Now I can hear Chris Antonetti saying that such position changes can’t possibly be done in the middle of the season. Well, Kipnis is a natural athlete, and he has done this before. Besides, who was it who was talking last week about accountability? If this is what the team needs, Kipnis would be more than willing to give it a try. Besides, the Indians had an entire offseason to get Carlos Santana acclimated to third base, and when the next season began he looked like he had never been there before. Either Kipnis can do it or he can’t. If he can’t, it would be better to know by the end of the season so we can plan accordingly. If it looks by the end of the season that he might be able to handle it, and all the young infielders look like they can handle their jobs, that would be good to know as well. There’s no doubt he would struggle at first, but would you rather that happen over the next sixty games
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Look, there aren’t a lot of alternatives. There isn’t enough in the budget to sign two free agent outfielders unless one of them is a Ryan Raburn type, which is a crap shoot as evidenced by Raburn’s up and down performance during his time here. Nobody at Columbus looks like they are ready to play every day. I wouldn’t count on Nick Swisher for anything but DH, and if you want to spend the offseason hoping that Michael Bourn is the answer then God bless you. That leaves trades, which would probably mean trading one of the top four starters. If there’s a way to avoid that I would, because the only way this team contends is if the pitching is dominant.
All of this assumes that the rest of the starting lineup will return intact next year; otherwise the budgetary and trade constraints are even more severe. If, for example, the Indians decide to move on from Carlos Santana at first base, and decide that Jesus Aguilar is not a viable alternative, then payroll or trade resources would be required to fill that hole, leaving even fewer resources to fill the holes in the outfield.
Granted, this is outside the box, but inside the box isn’t working out. Just a few months ago this front office was convinced that Jose Ramirez was part of the future of this franchise. Why not spend the next two months deciding if that is true while also finding out if Jason Kipnis can be the answer in center field.